"I never envisioned selling it," Jack said of Cryptic's first MMORPG. "I thought we'd be working on City of Heroes for a decade or more."
Jack began the interview by tracing the history of how and why Cryptic made the transition from NCSoft to Atari, going from City of Heroes to Champions and Star Trek Online. The move was partially prompted by the desire to retain employees who would have been laid off otherwise. After landing at Atari, Cryptic built both recent MMOs from the ground up in two years as a necessity of time and funding.
"I never envisioned selling it. I thought we'd be working on City of Heroes for a decade or more."
When it comes to experienced studio leads, Jack puts himself in an elite category, with four MMO launches under his belt -- City of Heroes, City of Villains, Champions Online
, and Star Trek Online
. -- an impressive number for this genre. He saw a major shift in the industry after World of Warcraft's
launch, as every subsequent game's "success" was compared to that title and fell short. He cited Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa, Age of Conan
and Warhammer Online
as examples of decent games that struggled after a buildup of huge hype and eventual player disillusionment. Reviewers, he said, changed the way they evaluated MMOs in this post-WoW
world, for better or worse.
Jack reviewed some of Champions'
strengths -- such as great character customization and lush art -- while also pointing at a few of its weak spots, like unbalanced powers and obscure tooltips. "I'm just as perplexed as you are as to the description of some of these things!"
he confessed. He is incredibly excited about Champions' Revelation update
, which is apocalyptic in theme and epic in scope, and boasts 20-30 hours of new content for high level players.
Although they were disappointed by some of the reviews, Cryptic is proud of Star Trek Online's
launch, which has "well over 100K subscribers" at this point. In dealing with such a huge IP, they had to "pick their battles" as to what would be included with STO
. This led the team to focus on space and ground combat as the core of the game, as a necessity to its success. He knows that some fans were upset as to the lack of features like diplomacy, which he says is on its way."What the players want, we're going to give it to them,"
he promised, stating how Cryptic has and will continue to poll players as to their most wanted content and features. One such feature was the inclusion of a death penalty, which Cryptic originally left out of STO as they did not see it being "fun", but when players complained about its omission, they reconsidered.
In the coming months, they'll be discussing where they see the future of Cryptic and its titles. Jack specifically noted negative player perception of Cryptic as seen in a recent Massively discussion
of the company. "It's up to us to stand up,"
he said, "be the big boys, and see what we can do to make this company better."
He notes how they have made huge leaps in increasing communication, but that is only "step one" of their plans for future improvement. "We have to adapt to the changing nature of the MMO market."
While the Cryptic team was working on a console MMO for Marvel Universe Online
, this is no longer the case for their current lineup. He is clear on this point: "It is not happening. The console is not a current focus."
As for Bill Roper, Jack says he's moved to a "floating design role" to assist both titles, and is the "good cop" in the studio to Emmert's self-professed "bad cop."
What are some of Jack Emmert's dream licenses that he'd love to work with? "Godzilla and Dungeons & Dragons,"
The man has taste.[Thanks Frank!]